You sit beside a bed. This particular bed holds your father, not your baby, but you are struck by the similarities at the beginning and end of life. The ointments and diapers. The confusion and breathtaking emotion. The endless sitting and the slowly ticking clock. The love and the fear and the pain, all mixed together.
You sit for hours just watching for a rise and a fall of his chest, barely taking a breath yourself until you see that his ribs are rising. Uneven breaths make you nervous, pauses are terrifying.
He cannot feed himself, so you spoon smooth food into his mouth, using the edge to wipe any wayward drips from his lips. You gently ask if he's ready for some more, trying to decipher from his facial expressions, his subtle movements, his mouth being open or closed or turned away from you whether he wants any more.
You ask for his help when moving him, you wait until you think that for sure he's heard you, that you have his permission, that you aren't doing something to him but for him instead.
He is so dependent on others and only vaguely aware of the world. When he is awake, you mostly cannot understand what he is saying. There are some words, some emphatic feelings and noises. Mostly you are the one talking, using your softest, sweetest voice, telling him you are there, you love him, he is okay.
You focus on the time you greeted him and he said, clearly, "Hi Sweetie" and choose to forget the time you hurt him while changing his shirt, making him yell out with a pain that reached right into your chest like a knife.
But, unlike your babies, he doesn't cry. That, the unpredictable indecipherable crying of a baby, is left entirely to you.
All of life seems to stop when you are inside his room and when you emerge from the room, from the house, it seems unreal that the world should be going on without acknowledgement of how severely your life has been rocked. Have the cars always driven this fast? Has the sun always been this blinding? Where are all these people going and can you just lay down here in this soft snow for awhile? You have done nothing but sit here and stroke his forehead and hands and stare at his impenetrable face but you are just so very tired.
As with your babies, you know that part of loving him is caring for his needs, holding him close, and ultimately, letting him go.
Like your babies, he is on a journey and your love can only take him so far.